If I am to fulfill my obligations and responsibilities as a blogger, I need to say some stuff here about Terri Schiavo.
If everybody dies (Freud said no one really believes that he or she will actually really die), then sooner or later, hovering around each of us, our family will have to figure out how to steward our final days.
I understand why everyone puts up such a fuss at each of these transitions. It's a very good instinct. Not Ever wanting to die, or not wanting to die Yet, is very life-affirming. I like that about human beings, and someone being really opposed to Dying Yet forms the plot of at least forty percent of all movies.
There are Artificial Deaths -- executions, genocides, unnatural deaths usually of Political Origins. Resisting them, fighting them, trying to survive through them is a hugely wonderful and fascinating human instinct. Some Bad Person says you'll be dead in a couple of days, even when you're feeling fine and in pretty good health, and you decide to see if you can Not Die -- and a thrilling story, true or fictional, is born. And my favorite ending for all of these stories is that the Bad Person's scheme is thrwarted, and the hero or heroine doesn't die. I love movies that end that way.
If you read an accurate translation of "The Arabian Nights," a lot of the stories end this way:
"And they lived happily ever after, until there came to them the Destroyer of delights, and the Severer of friendships ..."
So it is good that people Object to Death, often strenuously and vigorously. We look for Loopholes, Exemptions, Miracle Cures. The more desperate the situation, the more desperately we look for a Way Out. Sometimes it even pays off, sometimes it works out, sometimes we Don't Die.
But, in the end, for every goddam one of us, will come the Severer of friendships. We don't have to Get With That. We don't have to surrender, we don't have to quit, we don't have to make it easy for Death.
Death will win eventually whether we cooperate or put up a big huge fuss.
One thing I like or admire about the system is that so far, extra money has only very limited purchasing power to postpone Death. I don't mean this as any kind of threat or assault, only a Truism, a reassurance for the impatient: Donald Trump will die. Very egalitarian. Death tells The Donald: "Your money's no good here."
I don't know if that's always going to be a truism. People really hate to die, and rich people will try anything to avoid dying, and maybe, around 2061, some clever biotech researcher in the pharmaceutical industry will figure out how to Sell Something that's really effective at postponing death for previously unimagined decades. Maybe by 2070, rich people will talk about Death the way we talk about arthritis now -- a painful, debilitating annoyance that requires expensive drugs for which nobody sells generics. Poor people will continue to talk about Death as always.
But as things stand now, no matter how we try to wriggle out of it, each and every one of us will die. Precise date uncertain, but it's coming our way.
And typically, our immediate family will be stewarding us through the final week, month, or year. By the teenage years, they begin letting young people close to these gatherings; at that age, the Secret Details and Negotiations and Rituals of the Transition begin to be revealed.
It makes you wonder why anyone tried to keep it a secret. There's an inevitability to it, in every single case of Natural Death. It seems to me the sooner you see it fairly up close and become acquainted with its practical details, the better off the rest of us will be later down the road.
But yes, if there's any choice, you certainly don't want to go any sooner than you have to.
Although that's not the only consideration. There's also shrieking torment and pain. There's also horrible indignity. There's a big selection of Bad Deaths you can be unlucky enough to get smacked with.
How about we let each family, with the help of competent doctors, and (hopefully) competent clergy members, work each Death out for themselves, in private?
Unhappily there is a very big disagreement between Terri Schiavo's husband and her parents. That's not unique among family members at the end of a life. One way or another, sooner or later, this will be the family's last controversy, the family's last disagreement, their final chance to try to struggle and get their own way. For a lot of human beings, that's a last chance they just can't pass up. And everyone's offering advice generously, for free.
When it leaves the little family room in the hospital, and moves out into all the TV networks, and both houses of Congress, and the president flying in for a special bill-signing, when it hits the front pages of every American and most of the planet's newspapers, the good free advice takes a new twist.
Some of the advice, like all the private family advice, is the best advice well-intentioned people can offer for what to do for Terri Schiavo and, at most, six or seven other people who have big natural human needs around her circumstances.
But when it goes Public Big, half the advice, maybe most of the advice, is about what's best not for Terri Schiavo and these seven closest relatives, but for millions of people. What's the best thing to do for all Americans? What's the best thing to do for the next generation? What's the best thing to do for every American older than 60?
That's advice, and it might be needed, and some of it might be helpful under certain civic and political circumstances.
But it cannot help one family figure out what to do about the difficult final stage of one human being's life.
What would I do? I would throw every creep in jail who had any conscious, intentional thing to do with taking this decision out of the hands of Terri Schiavo's immediate family, and turning it into a World Media Circus.
I don't mean her parents. Whether or not they have actual or sufficient legal standing in the matter, they're just doing what comes naturally under those circumstances.
Particularly for Death Amateurs. So far, I'm a Death Amateur. And it looks like I'm not going to medical school, and I'm not going to seminary, and I'm not starting a funeral home, so I'll probably always be a Death Amateur. I've tried to pay attention, and listen carefully, and read a lot, so if Death Hovers now and then, I won't be a complete useless gibbering fool, I can aspire to be more help than hindrance in the things that have to be done, and the things that are coming no matter how hard or successfully anyone fights them.
Amateurs are always going to be prone to being clumsy and making mistakes under that special and miserable and terrifying kind of unfamiliar pressure.
But anyone who convenes a special session of Congress over this kind of situation -- well, this is a Political Pervert, no matter what Holy Suit such a person wraps himself up in, no matter what Holy Blather issues from this politician's mouth, this person has the morals and ethics of a turd. This person is taking the most excruciating human pain and fear and misery, and using it to squeeze votes from the rubes who are watching the mess on Fox News.
Each of us should very specifically and clearly see what this entails. From now on, when our loved one's final stage arrives, at the whim of the majority of 535 partisan politicians who are constantly and perpetually obsessed with getting re-elected, our loved one's final days may become a political, public, federal tug-of-war and entertainment circus, featuring scores of lawyers, including government lawyers. Your Aunt Maude when her time comes. Your great-grandmother. Your Cousin Nina. Your Uncle Jimmy. This is a precedent that means their final days, their final torments will all be played out on the Jerry Springer Show, and CNN, and C-SPAN, and MSNBC, and The 700 Club.
That might be a good thing, that might be a social improvement, if it means we would get smarter, wiser, more humane, more moral, more ethical decisions when every natural or inevitable death becomes a federal case and national carnival. Look at the fine decision-making Congress is universally noted for now, including its universally recognized high ethical standards. Our loved ones, in their final days, will be in fine, loving, trustworthy hands with these 535 professional politicians and their staff and agents and political party agencies and institutions.
As for the religious dimension, most of them go to church every Sunday, they have the deep religious and spiritual concerns covered.
Everyone who voted to make a unique, unprecedented federal case of Terri Schiavo's life-and-death crisis needs to resign from Congress immediately, or be impeached or voted out as quickly as possible. These are sickos who threw a big noisy Savage Vote Candy Party at the expense of Terri Schiavo and the people who love her most.
When the carnival ends and moves on to the next fairground, this family will have been violated and degraded beyond imagining. People die. Families grieve. With the blessed grace of family privacy, they find a way to go on through the land of the living. I can't imagine how this family will ever achieve that after this political violation.